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Telecoms take the heat to traditional Pay-TV firms

Television still dominates the content space

Kampala, Uganda | ISAAC KHISA | Telecom firms are slowly taking the battle for consumers to traditional Pay TV’s door step with the matching of the rival’s content either through partnerships or own content plays.

MTN Uganda unveiled the YOTV in partnership with Al Bayan Media to offer live TV, radio and video-on-demand. This was followed up with Airtel Uganda that unveiled Airtel TV, having unveiled the same product in Nigeria.

The content is streamed live including local and foreign channels such as Aljazeera, Bloomberg, Nollywood and Bollywood, Gametoon, Fashion Box, Nautical, God TV and Inspiration TV.

MTN Uganda Acting Chief Marketing Officer, Sen Somdev, said this new innovation is a win-win for both YOTV Channels and MTN customers.

“Our customers are now looking for convenience. With the advent of smart phones, more people are now accessing information with just a click of a button anywhere anytime,” he said.

“Life as it is now is so busy and people find themselves caught up with work commitments leaving them with little time to catch up with their favourite shows. MTN is therefore pleased to partner with YOTV.”

The new customers for the service will be awarded with 30 days of free trial thereafter upgrade to a new subscription plan of their choice, starting with as low as Shs500 for an hour, Shs1000 for a day and Shs 10,000 for month.

The YOTV channel will also allow its customers to enjoy the local content at their convenience with the ability to pause, rewind, and record and catch up with missed programs up to 24 hours.

Similarly, Airtel Uganda Managing Director, V.G Somasekhar said the new service would provide affordable entertainment to its subscribers and that it would promote local artists.

“The App will have different local news, music, Ugandan comedy and movies, in addition to streaming of sports, video-on-demand and many other offerings,” he said adding, “We encourage Uganda’s local content producers to utilise this platform for revenue.”

Though the telecoms venture into this market segment may not translate into money as fast as possible owed to expensive data, it is likely to continue to attract the youth population, according to a study carried out by Pranav Modi – Principal, Singapore office and Eric Archer – Business Analyst, Johannesburg office at Delta Partners, an advisory and investment firm specialised in the telecoms, media and tech.

The authors say the new development will woo the young population that would have otherwise been customers to traditional Pay TV.

The authors, however, say whereas the leading Pay-TV providers in Africa still hold exclusive rights to premium local and sports content, they need to keep a close eye on developments in the live film and television streaming space.

For example, ShowMax in Kenya is producing exclusive Kenyan shows to cater for the strong appetite for local content. iRoko has cited its large own exclusive catalogue of Nigerian and Ghanaian content, playing a key role in targeting the emerging middle class.

Global players such as iflix are latching on to the popularity of Nigeria’s Nollywood industry, purchasing up to 1,000 hours of exclusive Nollywood content and already commissioning two local titles.

“In summary, it’s not only the large Pay-TV providers who will have the rights to own exclusive content,” the authors say.

Another key development which could soon make its way into Africa and break in to the Premium Pay-Tv segments is Sports via the internet.

The most well-known examples, according to the Delta Partners, include Twitter, Amazon, Facebook and YouTube in the USA competing over rights to stream National Football League football games, with Facebook also making a significant yet losing bid ($610m for 5 years of streaming rights) for the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Cricket; Hotstar and Iflix streaming the Indian Premier League  in India and top flight and second division football leagues in Indonesia respectively; DAZN in Europe capturing rugby, football and the NFL; Sportflix in Mexico slated to offer premium third-party sports content from the NFL, NBA, Formula One, NHL, UFC, Golf and Soccer for subscription plans ranging from US $19.99 a month to US$29.99 a month.

The advisory firm says whereas telecom’s entry in the live streaming content space in Africa is relatively nascent and linear television still dominates, consumption trends are bound to change and the battle between industry players is set to intensify.

This development comes barely three months since Africa’s biggest Pay TV  group MultiChoice announced in November last year that its half-year profits leap 22% as it further cut losses outside of its home market South Africa and as foreign exchange swings worked in its favour.

The company said its losses reduced by 700 million rand ($47.03 million) in the first six months of last year as it looks forward to ensure that the rest of Africa turns profitable in the medium term.

The group said it added 1.2 million 90-day active subscribers, representing 7% year-on-year growth, taking the overall 90-day active subscriber base to 18.9 million households as at September.30.

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